Technical deficiencies, mainly against short-pitched bowling, as well as disappointing first innings scores, have been identified as major factors in the downfall of the West Indies batsmen during the just concluded two-match Test series against New Zealand, which the home team swept.
Those are the views of former Barbados captain and West Indies opening batsman Philo Wallace, in an interview with yours truly.
West Indies lost both Tests inside four days – by an innings and 67 runs at the Basin Reserve in Wellington (Scores: West Indies 134 all out (45.4 overs) and 319 all out (106 overs); New Zealand 520 for nine declared (148.4 overs); and by 240 runs at Seddon Park in Hamilton (Scores: New Zealand 373 all out (102.2 overs) and 291 for eight declared (77.4 overs); West Indies 221 all out (66.5 overs) and 203 all out (63.5 overs).
Left-arm pacers Neil Wagner and Trent Boult led the New Zealand attack. Wagner took 14 wickets at 18.28 runs apiece, while Boult picked up ten (ave: 24.80).
“There was a clear deficiency among the West Indies batsmen in relation to playing the short-pitched ball, in that their techniques compounded the problem. If you look at the mode of dismissals to the short ball, most of them were out trying to take evasive action. They were caught in no-man’s land,” Wallace said.
“This was due to improper footwork, basic watching of the ball and negating the bounce by either leaving the ball or getting into the right position to play it.
“A batsman is supposed to pull a length ball or hook at a bouncer. If you are going to hook at a bouncing ball, you need to get on top of it to hit it down. If you are hooking up, you should be hooking for six.
“I think that West Indies fell down in their batting. We did not score enough runs as a batting unit, particularly in the first innings.
“West Indies should have looked at a big first innings score, either batting first or second, to take the pressure off the batsmen going into the second innings.
“The trend in West Indies cricket is that the batsmen try to bat at their best when the pitch is deteriorating. That calls for a lot of mental, physical and technical application.
“The coaching staff, particularly our batting coach, need to do a better assessment of the calibre of batsmen they have to work with. Maybe the batting coach might require more outside of the regular net sessions.
“It might be happening but we don’t know because we are not hearing anything. If we are going to look at performances, where does the buck stop?
“If you get into the right position to play an attacking shot to the rising ball and you realise that the shot is not on, you should be able to either move out of the way or defend it properly.
“And if you are not in the correct position with your feet, you will find yourself throwing your hands at the ball because you are feeling for it. And more often than not you get out. So the key is to get into the right position.”
Wallace also touched on the technique of rookie batsman Sunil Ambris, who was dismissed hit wicket twice in his first three innings.
“Ambris was not going back and across. He was going back towards leg stump. He was trying to get outside the ball instead of going in line. When you go back and across, you are moving your back foot towards off stump. While moving to off stump, you pick up the line of the ball. Then what messages are sent to your front foot, hands and bat, you should be able to play the ball,” Wallace asserted.
Wallace also compared the pace attacks of both teams.
“When we look at our fast bowling, can we consider them as genuine fast bowlers or medium-fast?
“Shannon Gabriel is supposed to be our fastest bowler but inconsistency is hampering his ability to bowl fast.
“Kemar Roach is medium-fast with the ability to bowl a good line and length. He can also get the ball to swing.
“Jason Holder is back of the length and lacks aggression.
“Miguel Cummins is the most aggressive of our pacers and looks to hit the deck hard like Wagner but he is not as effective.
“Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner are all medium-fast bowlers but they are different. Boult swings the ball both ways, Southee is more back of the length away movement and Wagner is aggressive and hits the deck hard.
“I thought our fast bowlers lacked aggression. We bowled out New Zealand only once. Sometimes you have to learn from the opposition on the field to make things happen in your favour and we did not do that as a bowling unit. We did not create a lot of opportunities.
“We are saying that our Test match cricketers have the ability but they are inexperienced. This New Zealand series has just set us back in relation to losing both Test matches inside four days.
“I think that the Test cricketers we have are good enough to do better.”
Wallace also called on the authorities to seriously analyse the pitches in the region in light of the fact that they have become relatively flat.
“I think we have to look at the surfaces in the Caribbean but then again it is also called adjustment and professionalism. One has to adapt techniques to suit conditions.
“The pitches in the region are slow and low. We need to improve them to accommodate a better brand of West Indies cricket,” Wallace said.
Hopefully, Wallace views, in his usual frank style, will be well digested and acted on.
(Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator.
He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website
(www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.